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Closer Look at Features and Capabilities

Before testing the OCZ DDR Booster, let us try to clarify what this device is actually for. Evidently, its main purpose is in providing for higher voltages on the DIMM slots. This may really come in handy at overclocking. It is a well-established fact that the maximum frequencies of many memory modules depend heavily on the supply voltage. Mainboards that allow tweaking Vmem often do so in a limited scope – usually no more than up to 2.8-2.9v. Our experiments suggest that this may be not enough for extreme overclocking. These restrictions led to the so-called volt-modifications as the users make changes to the DIMM slot power circuitry to reach higher memory voltages. According to overclocking practice, a DIMM voltage increase to 3.2-3.3v doesn’t cause any irreversible consequences if done with proper cooling, but dramatically improves the memory’s overclockability.

Volt-modification of a mainboard, although a popular method, requires good soldering skills from the user. It also deprives you of the warranty on the mainboard. The OCZ DDR Booster helps to avoid these problems. It can easily raise the DIMM slot voltage to 3.9v without any hardware changes.

The device itself is in fact an independent power supply circuit. By installing the OCZ DDR Booster into a free memory slot, you link it to the memory bus. The device plugs into the mainboard’s own circuitry and supplies additional and pure (i.e. stable) voltage. The Booster receives power from the ATX power-supply unit directly and thus can increase the voltage of DDR DIMM slots regardless of the BIOS Setup settings as well as of the mainboard itself.

The Booster is not a complex device at all. Frankly speaking, I was rather surprised to see it selling for as much as $60. Well, you buy the idea for that money, too, and this idea is simply brilliant. So, the Booster consists of two functional units. The first unit is responsible for displaying the current voltage value on the LED indicator. The second unit is actually an additional power supply circuit for the memory bus.

The display unit is based on an ICL7107 digital-to-analog converter from Intersil. This chip features an internal circuit for displaying the voltage value on a LED indicator – thanks to that we see the current voltage of the DIMM slots. For a precise setup of the showings of the LED indicator, the OCZ DDR Booster also has a small trimming resistor. I don’t think it’s of any use for us since Boosters are calibrated back at the factory.

The power supply circuit is based on four MOSFETs, covered under copper heatsinks. A second potentiometer, easily accessed by the user, adjusts the output voltage of the circuit. The power circuit of the OCZ DDR Booster connects to the PSU through two Molex connectors. By the way, you should connect the Booster with the enclosed cable only and make sure you plug everything right – although the device carries ordinary Molex connectors, their pins have non-standard values.

Thanks to this most simple design, the Booster is compatible with a lot of mainboards; the manufacturer’s website has a long list of compatibility-tested mainboards. I won’t copy’n’paste this list – just know it is long, although not without exceptions. For example, the design of the power circuitry of such mainboards as ABIT KV8, ASUS A7N8X, DFI nForce2, EPoX 4PCA3, FIC 875Dynasty, FIC P4M-RJ300 and Shuttle AN50R was found incapable of working with the Booster. Then, take note that the Booster is bigger than a standard memory module both in height and in thickness. That’s why you may encounter mechanical problems installing the device into a DIMM slot.

You may be curious to know about the Booster’s operation with a dual-channel memory controller. You may find it strange, but the device can be plugged into any free slot whatever channel it may belong and be used to control the voltage of all the memory modules installed in the system all the same. The explanation is simple: mainboards with a dual-channel memory controller use a common power-supply circuit for all the DIMM slots. Since the OCZ DDR Booster works with the power lines of the memory bus only, the dual-channelness doesn’t hinder its operation in any way.

 
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